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Origins and Name


Nigel Evans

Bampton and the early known family

The earliest mention of a Cudmore, found so far, is 1238 in Bampton Hundred. This is a court record referring to a woman Eda de Cuddemore and a tithingman Philip de Cuddemore of Cudmore. The case involved a burglary from her house. This tells us that she was probably a widow but her family relationship to Philip is unknown. A tithing was the Frankpledge group of ten or so males age 12 or more who were responsible for the good behaviour of one another. The tithingman was their elected head. This suggests a tithing around Cudmore and a farm of that name still exists, but was the family named after the farm or the farm named after the family?

Cudmore Farm is at the eastern end of Bampton Parish in the north east corner of Devon on rolling country about 700 feet above sea level and a few miles south of Exmoor. The Bampton Hundred comprises eight parishes on the edge of Somerset, from Morebath 2 miles north of Bampton to Uffculme 10 miles south east, (five of these parishes are not covered by the IGI). It's not yet clear which manor the farm was in, and this may have changed over the centuries, but geography suggests at least Bampton, Doddiscombe, Dipford, Huntsham and Nutcombe as possibilities.

The 1332 tax roll shows two Cudmores in Bampton parish, William de Codmor assessed at 2 shillings and Walter de Codemor at 12 pence, their relationship is unknown. These were the only Cudmores taxed in Devon, which does not mean that there were not some paupers somewhere. The next tax return with names was 1524-27 and this shows Henry Cadmore of Bampton assessed at £10 in goods and Rawlyn Codmore of the neighbouring parish of Clayhanger assessed £6 in goods. However, by this time there are also Cutmores (variously spelt) in south west Devon and it's possible that a migration and significant variation to the name had occurred.

The last mention of Cudmores in Bampton, so far discovered, is John, Henry and Thomas in the 1543-45 tax roll. There are no Cudmores in Bampton in either the 1569 Muster Roll or 1581 tax roll. The surviving parish registers start at 1653 and contain no Cudmores, nor do the Bishops Transcripts of the registers starting 1609, albeit with many gaps.

By mid-16th century Cudmores are appearing elsewhere, Bradford and Petrockstowe (some 37 and 32 miles west of Bampton) and Shobrooke about 19 miles south. These seem to have been the most affluent, but they appear in over half a dozen other parishes across north Devon notably at Tiverton a few miles south of Bampton. They are also about 25 miles east in North Curry in Somerset and further east still at Wilton in Wiltshire. The Cudmore diaspora was well underway.

What's in a name?

It's useful to understand the evolution of surnames in England. Some bynames were used in Anglo-Saxon times before the Norman Conquest of 1066. However, surnames started to appear in the 12th century to differentiate people with the same personal name. Hereditary surnames were well established by the 14th century and had become widespread in England by about 1450. In the intervening period it was common to find members of the same family using different surnames, and as late as the 15th century apprentices and servants still sometimes adopted their master's surname in place of their own.

The 1238 record suggests the possibility of an inherited Cudmore surname. Surnames alone are not a reliable method of establishing a family pedigree in the earlier centuries and the 1238 families may not have a blood relationship with later Cudmores particularly if the farm changed ownership later that century. Of course if there was little population movement then many people in a district could be distantly related.

Spelling was considered unimportant until the mid-18th century, and the spelling of surnames was particularly varied. The possible Cudmore - Cutmore split has already been mentioned and over two dozen different spellings of Cudmore have been found. Literacy levels were low so an official recording a name would have spelt it with their own phonetic interpretation. In the early centuries an added complication was the records being written in Latin or Norman French whereas the people spoke vernacular English.

English surnames originated from four main sources. The most common is a place name. Then there are relationships, '-son' being the most obvious but there are others, and it needs to be remembered that the Old English (OE or Anglo-Saxon) personal names were used into the 14th century. Next are names associated by occupation or office, however, Cudmore does not seem to be one of these. Finally there were nicknames, not necessarily polite ones by modern standards.

The first option for the origin of the name is therefore the place Cudmore. This doesn't help much and begs the question what does it mean. There are some options. First the word 'cuddy' means horse and this fits neatly with the idea of 'horse moor' - with added credibility from the well-known Exmoor ponies. Unfortunately 'cuddy' is a lowland Scots word and seems unlikely to have been used in Devon. Furthermore, the Exmoor ponies are more likely to have been called 'nags' or 'cobs' in the local vernacular. An alternative may be 'cud' as a corruption of 'cut', meaning a place called 'cut moor', however, the terrain around Cudmore Farm does not obviously fit this description.

The next options are OE personal names that could give rise to the 'Cud' stem of Cudmore. There are two known ones CÒ_beort (Cuthbert in modern English meaning famous-bright) and CÒ_beald (Cobbold meaning famous-bold). In particular 'Cud' was a well-established diminutive for Cuthbert. A place called 'Cuthbert's moor' seems an elegantly simple answer and there is also a 1330 reference to 'Cuddas mor'. However, it may be challenged based on whether land tenure would have permitted Cuthbert to have a moor, a question that will be considered later.

A nickname cannot be totally be discounted. For example the first Cudmore may have been 'Cud the Moor', meaning either someone (a Cuthbert) who was notably swarthy or, perhaps, someone who distinguished themselves playing a moor in a local mystery play or pageant.

On balance and preferring the simple solution, it seems reasonable that the family took their name from a place known as Cuthbert's Moor. Of course, we have no idea who Cuthbert was, apart from having an Anglo-Saxon name, or when he gave his name to the moor or if he had any relationship to later Cudmores.

But where did they come from?

The short answer is nobody knows. However, the history of south west England offers a few clues.

Devon, while cold, was not always covered by the ice sheets of the ice age that ended around 10,000 years ago and the English Channel was created about 8,000 years ago, limiting migration from the south. There is evidence of human settlement in Devon during the inter-glacial periods of ice age, but continuous occupation was not re-established until that age ended. The later stone age settlements and subsequent bronze age offer nothing apart from wild hypothesising, but DNA testing of a man who died around 7000 BC in neighbouring Somerset revealed a close match with a living local teacher. This suggests that successive incoming migrations absorbed at least some of the existing population. It's also worth noting that the region's tin and copper would have been important to bronze age peoples, possibly at the European level, and that it's widely held that the Phoenicians traded with the region in the last millennium BC.

The next important event was about 500 BC with the arrival of the Celts, by then an iron age culture. The Celtic culture is first identified around 2000 BC in the area of Bavaria and Bohemia. It reached its height in about 300 BC, stretching from modern Turkey and Poland to Spain and Scotland, before declining in the face of Rome and the Teutonic tribes. The basis of Celtic society was the family group, probably 4 generations, living in comparative isolation; there were no towns or villages until late in their period and the Romans reported towns in Britain. Family groups often established hill forts as havens, but there do not seem to be any in the Bampton district. These family groups associated as tribes with a king. There was a three tier structure of kingship and the Romans reported that there were 33 main (highest tier) kingdoms in Britain with the Dumnonii occupying what is now Cornwall, Devon and much of Somerset.

The Romans first invaded Britain in 55-54 BC then permanently in 43 AD, the Celts were the people they found there, calling themselves British (in modern English). The British kingdoms varied in their attitudes to the Romans, some were pro-Roman, some hostile and some, including the Dumnonii, neutral. Apart from subduing the hostile kingdoms and dealing with revolts the effect of the Romans in Britain was far less than in other parts of their empire, and Latin never took over as it did in Gaul. North east Devon is outside the area of southern Britain that was most affected by Roman settlement. Christianity was established in Britain in the 3rd century.

The Romans left Britain at the beginning of the 5th century and the Romano-British leaders reasserted their leadership, which had existed under Roman suzerainty. A reversion to British patterns started and many towns were gradually abandoned. However, the British who lived throughout England, Wales and southern Scotland were under threat, as had been late Roman Britain. From the north the Picts, from the west the Irish and from across the North Sea the Teutonic tribes. The Irish were, of course Celts, however, they spoke a different dialect to the British (Q-Gaelic not P-Gaelic) and may have arrived (perhaps from Spain) in Ireland less than a century before the first Roman invasion of Britain. The Irish invaded and had short lived settlements in Wales and may have invaded, with brief success, parts of Cornwall, before turning their attention to Scotland where they were successful.

The Teutonic tribes, from the North German plain and its coasts had provided the Romans with auxiliaries and other tribes such as Goths, Lombards and Franks had penetrated deep into the Empire with the former sacking Rome. In southern England the invaders were predominantly Saxon, starting in the mid-5th century leading to the kingdom of Wessex in the south west. Anglo-Saxon Britain became Christian in the 7th century. However, the West Saxons did not start to occupy west Somerset and east Devon until the second half of the 7th century and Exeter was seized by them in about 710 AD. While place names in Dorset and Somerset contain a reasonable proportion of British origin, there are few in Devon. This suggests that Saxon occupation was rapid, possibly because the British population was greatly reduced by the plague of the mid 6th century and migration to Brittany. The place names around Bampton all show OE origin - 'ton' meaning homestead, 'combe' meaning valley, 'ham' meaning hamlet and 'hanger' a wood on a hillside.

Where the land was productive the basis of Saxon society was a small village. This was inhabited by free and independent peasants called ceorls, each the master of his household and who in the early Anglo-Saxon period owned a hide of land that he farmed and had direct contact with his tribal king. While he was independent, village agriculture was a co-operative effort and by the 11th century may have typically comprised several hides. The size of a hide is the subject of debate but in the west of England was probably about 40 acres. The situation in Devon is unclear and while Wessex generally followed the open-field system of intermingled strips of land with different owners, this was not the case in Devon. However, where the land was less good there tended to be more isolated farmsteads, the hill areas of Devon show this pattern and Cudmore Farm could have this sort of origin.

The various Viking and Danish raids in the 8th and 9th centuries made little lasting impact and somewhere tucked away without obvious wealth would not have attracted their attention. But the most notable event was the Norman invasion of 1066, bearing in mind that the Normans were in fact 'Frenchified' Vikings.

The Normans' did not arrive in large numbers and their impact was at the highest levels. They introduced a feudal society, whereby the King owned all land and granted it to his tenants-in-chief, who further allotted it and so on. In essence they sequestered the land on a large scale but did not settle it on a small scale. Of course, they were not all Normans, there were followers from other parts notably Bretons who had originated as migrants from Devon, Cornwall and Wales in the middle of the first millennium, their modern language being closest to Cornish.

The Normans established one of their 33 Devon baronies at Bampton, and the remains of the castle still exist, how closely this barony aligned with Bampton Hundred is unclear. The Domesday Book of 1086 was basically a tax assessment of all the manors in the kingdom. It provides some details of the manors near Bampton including:

Bampton: Walter de Douai and Rademar and Gerard from him. Mill. 2 cobs, 50 goats.

Dipford: Wulfric from Walter de Douai. Mill. 2 asses, 109 sheep, 54 goats.

Morebath: King's land, formerly Earl Harold.

Clayhanger: Robert from William de Mohun.

Huntsham: Odo FitzGamelin. 10 cattle.

Hockworthy: Rogo from Baldwin the Sheriff; Walter de Douai.

Stallenge Thorne: Odo FitzGamelin.

Burlescombe: Walter de Claville. 22 cattle.

Holcombe Rogus: Rogo from Baldwin the Sheriff. 2 mills. 22 pigs.

Uffculme: Walter de Douai. 2 mills. 14 cattle, 220 sheep.


Later manors such Nutcombe, Doddiscombe and Petton all in Bampton parish are not mentioned suggesting they did not exist in 1086. Walter de Douai, also nick-named Walscin was a Norman from North Douai, he had holdings in Devon, Essex, Somerset, Surrey, Wiltshire. Wulfric was obviously an Anglo-Saxon. Earl Harold was, of course, King Harold to the Anglo-Saxons.

Conclusions on the Cudmore origins

On balance, while the possibility of Cudmore ancestors arriving with the Normans cannot be totally discounted, the odds are against it. Similarly, it's highly unlikely that they arrived with the Romans. All the indications are that very few British remained in Devon when the West Saxons arrived. The obvious conclusion is that the Cudmore ancestors in the Bampton district were Saxon.

However, there must be the caveat that we should assume there was always some internal migration in Britain and people and families might have moved from anywhere.

Oral History - Spain and Wales

There seem to be two oral traditions about Cudmore origins. Oral history usually has a basis of fact but along the way the story becomes altered as interpretations are added.

First, several branches of the family have the story of a Spanish ancestor, possibly an Armada (1588) survivor. An Armada survivor sounds unlikely - there doesn't appear to be any record of its ships founding so far west in the Bristol Channel and the Cudmores were not a coastal family. Then there is the matter of surnames for a male survivor and a female one seems even less likely. However, a Spanish migrant, male or female, in an earlier century cannot be totally discounted, but no evidence has been found. No evidence of one in a later century has been found either, and would almost certainly be documented somewhere.

The second tradition is that the Cudmores came from Wales. This could have several interpretations, but it must be remembered that the Welsh did not start to use surnames until late 16th century. Before this, it was patronymics and those that migrated to England typically adopted a name based on their personal name, for example Evans was adapted from Ieuen (a form of John), these 'English' names were exported back to Wales when the Welsh adopted surnames. There are documented Cudmores in Devon far earlier than the 16th century and there is no sign of the name ever appearing in Wales. Furthermore, this oral tradition seems to appear in only one branch of the family indicating that it originated later rather than earlier.

This leaves four possibilities:

sometime pre-16th century a Welshman arrived, acquired Cudmore Farm and adopted the name, of course if it was before about 1200 then it could mean the Cudmores originated in Wales, but why didn't he follow the usual practice of an English version of his Welsh personal name;

a surnameless Welshman was employed by the Cudmores as a servant and adopted their name, again why not follow normal Welsh practice;

a possibly surnameless Welsh family arrived in North Devon and decided Cudmore was the name for them, perhaps without any connection to the original Cudmores. A family called Raddon changed their name to Cudmore in the 17th century. This name can be traced back several centuries in counties in south and central England, making a Welsh connection unlikely and there don't seem to be any others; or

a Cudmore married a Welsh girl and the subsequent oral history became confused. There is an indication of this because in 1718 an Emlyn Cudmore was baptised in Okehampton and Emlyn is a quintessential Welsh personal name, perhaps he had a Welsh mother.

While neither a Spanish nor a Welsh connection can be discounted, apart from Emlyn, there is no evidence of such a thing after about 1550.